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Alberta Politics

Federal election countdown. Party leaders and ministers campaign in Alberta. More candidates nominated.

The countdown to Canada’s next federal election is on as cabinet ministers and party leaders drop into Alberta to raise their banners and support their local candidates.

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna joined Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to announce federal funding for southern extension of the Capital Line LRT.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra with Calgary Liberal candidates George Chahal and Sabrina Grover. (Source: Twitter)
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra with Calgary Liberal candidates George Chahal and Sabrina Grover. (Source: Twitter)

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was touring through Calgary and made time to attend a rally in support of Calgary-Centre Liberal candidate Sabrina Grover and Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was spotted in the provincial capital campaigning with Edmonton-Strathcona MP Heather McPherson, Edmonton-Griesbach candidate Blake Desjarlais and Edmonton-Centre candidate Heather MacKenzie.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier was in Medicine Hat, where he was campaigning with local candidates and meeting with ousted UCP MLA Drew Barnes.

And candidate nominations continue ahead of the expected election call. Here are some of the latest federal candidate nominations from across Alberta:

  • Ron Thiering has been nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin. Thiering was the party’s 2019 candidate in the neighbouring Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan and recently lost a contested nomination in that district to Tanya Holm.
  • Juan Estevez is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Centre on August 5.
  • Sandra Hunter is expected to be nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-West on August 5.
  • Desiree Bissonnettte is seeking the NDP nomination in Lakeland and is expected to be nominated on August 5.
  • Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-Confederation. A nomination meeting is scheduled for August 11. Akter is the managing director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Education and President and CEO of the Peerless Training Institute, a government-accredited private career college in Calgary. She was the NDP candidate in Calgary-West in the 2019 provincial election, where she placed second with 25.4 per cent of the vote behind United Conservative Party MLA Mike Ellis.
  • Carey Rutherford is the Green Party candidate in Calgary-Forest Lawn.
  • Melanie Hoffman is the Green Party candidate in Edmonton-Riverbend.

    I am building a list of candidates seeking party nominations to run as candidates in Alberta in the next federal election. If you have any additions to the list, please comment below or email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

Liberals nominate six more candidates in Alberta, Greens nominate parks defender Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation

With an election call expected in the coming weeks or months, the Liberal Party of Canada continues to nominate candidates in Alberta.

Randy Boissonnault has been acclaimed as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Centre. Boissonnault represented the central Edmonton district in Ottawa from 2015 to 2019.

Following weeks of rumours that he was being pressured by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau to run, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson declined the chance to run as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton-Centre, clearing the way for Boissonnault’s nomination.

The Liberals have also recently nominated the following candidates:

  • Getahun Shawile in Bow River.
  • Habiba Mohamud in Edmonton-Griesbach. Mohamud was the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, where she placed third with 17.2 per cent of the vote.
  • Tariq Chaudary in Edmonton-Riverbend. Chaudary was the party’s candidate in the 2015 and 2019 election. In 2019, he placed second with 22.9 per cent of the vote.
  • Adam Brown in Edmonton-West
  • Greg Springate in St. Albert-Edmonton. Springate was the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, where he placed second with 19.1 per cent of the vote.
Jason Kenney and Tunde Obasan in 2018.

The Conservative Party has not released any official statement but it appears as though Tunde Obasan has been acclaimed as the party’s candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona following Rick Peterson’s disqualification earlier this month.

Obasan defeated City Councillor Mike Nickel to win the United Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-South in 2018. He was later defeated by NDP MLA Thomas Dang in the 2019 election.

The Green Party has nominated Natalie Odd in Calgary-Confederation and Evelyn Tanaka in Calgary-Shepard.

Odd is the Executive Director of the Alberta Environmental Network, one of the groups that spearheaded the incredibly successful “Defend Alberta Parks” campaign against the UCP government’s plans to close or privatize more than 170 provincial parks.  This is her third time running as the Green Party candidate in this district.

The right-wing People’s Party has nominated Bailey Bedard in Calgary-Heritage, Thomas Matty in Edmonton-Centre and Paul McCormack in Edmonton-Mill Woods. And the separatist Maverick Party has chosen Matt Magolan in Calgary-Midnapore.


Dr. Sunil Sookram running for Senate

A fourth candidate has put their name forward to run in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election, which will take place on the same day as the province’s municipal elections on October 18, 2021.

University of Alberta Hospital emergency medicine physician and former AHS EMS Medical Director Dr. Sunil Sookram has filed his papers to run as an Independent candidate.

Already running are Progress Alberta executive Director Duncan Kinney, lobbyist and former UCP President Erika Barootes, and conservative activist Pamela Davidson.


I am building a list of candidates seeking party nominations to run as candidates in Alberta in the next federal election. If you have any additions to the list, please email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

George Chahal running for Liberals in Calgary-Skyview, Rick Peterson out of the race in Edmonton-Strathcona

Calgary City Councillor George Chahal announced this week that he is withdrawing his bid for re-election in the October municipal elections in order to run as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Skyview. Chahal, who was first elected to city council in 2017, will face Conservative Party Member of Parliament Jag Sahota, New Democratic Party candidate Gurinder Singh Gill, and People’s Party candidate Harry Dhillon.

The northeast Calgary district was represented by Liberal MP Darshan Kang from 2015 until he left the Liberal caucus in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment. The former two-term Liberal MLA sat as an Independent until his term was complete and did not seek re-election in 2019.

Rick Peterson out of Conservative race in Edmonton-Strathcona

RIck Peterson Edmonton-Strathcona
RIck Peterson is no longer in the race for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. (Photo source: Facebook)

It appears as though former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rick Peterson is no longer seeking his party’s nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. While neither Peterson nor the party have made any official public statement, Conservative Party sources say that he was disqualified from the race by the central party.

It now appears likely that his opponent, Tunde Obsan, the only other candidate in the race, will be acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona. Obasan was the 2019 United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-South and is an audit manager with the provincial Department of Alberta Treasury Board and Finance.

Edmonton-Strathcona is currently represented by NDP MP Heather McPherson.

Don Iveson running in Edmonton-Centre?

Don Iveson
Don Iveson

Rumours continue to circulate that Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson could seek the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Rumours about Iveson jumping into federal politics have been around for years, but his decision to not seek re-election as mayor and the proximity to an impending federal election has given new fuel to the speculation.

Iveson was first elected to City Council in 2007 and has served as Mayor since 2013. He is currently the chairperson of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus.

Former Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who represented the district from 2015 to 2019, has already announced his intentions to seek his party’s nomination.

Other nominations

The NDP have nominated Shawn Gray in Edmonton Riverbend.

Austin Mullins is now running for the Green Party nomination in Calgary-Centre. Mills had previously announced his intentions to seek the party’s nomination in Banff-Airdire, where he ran in 2019.

The right-wing People’s Party have nominated Dennis Trepanier in Battle River-Crowfoot, Edward Gao in Calgary-Confederation, Jonathan Hagel in Calgary-Midnapore, Kyle Scott in Calgary-Nose Hill, Michael Knoll in Calgary-Shepard, Brent Kinzel in Edmonton-West, Brigitte Yolande Maria Cecelia in St. Albert-Edmonton, and Murray MacKinnon in Sturgeon River-Parkland.

The party has also nominated two time Wildrose Party candidate Darryl Boisson in Peace River-Westlock and is expected to nominate Ben Whyte in Calgary-Rocky Ridge at a meeting on July 29.

The separatist Maverick Party has nominated Orrin Bliss in Bow River, Annelise Freeman in Calgary-Heritage, Josh Wylie in Foothills, and Physical Education and Social Studies teacher Todd Muir in Yellowhead.


I am building a list of candidates seeking party nominations to run as candidates in Alberta in the next federal election. If you have any additions to the list, please email me at david.cournoyer@gmail.com. Thank you.

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Alberta Politics

Murray Sigler nominated as Liberal candidate in Calgary Confederation

A notice on the Liberal Party of Canada website today noted that Murray Sigler has been acclaimed as the party’s candidate in Calgary-Confederation. Sigler is a well-known name in corporate Calgary, with a career stringing back to his days as a senior vice-president of Pacific Western Airlines and President of Canadian Airlines.

Most recently he completed a year as the interim CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, a role he filled on a permanent basis from 2002 to 2005 before his appointment as managing Director of the Alberta Government’s trade office in London, UK.

He worked as CEO of Sport Calgary from 2013 to 2019.

Sigler currently serves on the board of directors of the Calgary Airport Authority and the exclusive private Glencoe Club.

He led the Conservative caucus in the 1967 Calgary Model Parliament and donated $500 to the Alberta Party in 2017. He endorsed Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark in his bid for re-election in Calgary-Elbow in 2019.

Past provincial Liberal candidate David Gamble had previously announced his plans to seek the nomination.

Len Webber

Calgary-Confederation is currently represented by Conservative Member of Parliament Len Webber, who has been nominated by his party to run in the next election.

Webber was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 with a narrow margin, finishing 1,586 voted ahead of Liberal Matt Grant, but was re-elected with a much wider margin 21,404 votes ahead of Liberal Jordan Stein in 2019.

Webber previously served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Foothills from 2004 until 2014, when he sat as an Independent. His father, Neil Webber, served as the PC MLA for Calgary-Bow from 1975 to 1989 and founded the Webber Academy private school in 1997.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely expected to be preparing to call an election this summer. Trudeau will be visiting Calgary tomorrow.

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Alberta Politics

Sabrina Grover nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Centre

Sabrina Grover has been acclaimed as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Centre, according to a notice posted on the party website.

Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations.

Grover was active in Alberta’a Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s until Jason Kenney took over the leadership in 2017. She was also involved in Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver’s campaign for the party leadership in 2014.

Calgary-Centre was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Hehr was defeated by Conservative Greg McLean in 2019. McLean is running for re-election.


See the full list of candidates nominated and seeking party nominations to run in Alberta in the next federal election.

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Alberta Politics

Federal Liberals nominate Devon Hargreaves as their candidate in Lethbridge

Devon Hargreaves

Devon Hargreaves has been nominated as the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the federal district of Lethbridge. He is the first Liberal candidate nominated in Alberta ahead of the next federal election.

Hargreaves was the Liberal candidate in Lethbridge-East in the 2019 provincial election. He is the past Chair of the Lethbridge PrideFest and, in 2018, launched an e-petition to ban conversion therapy.

Incumbent Member of Parliament Rachael Harder has been nominated as the Conservative Party of Canada candidate. She was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 with 65.8 per cent of the vote.

See the full list of candidates nominated or seeking nominations to run in Alberta in the next federal election, which could be called as earlier as this summer.

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Alberta Politics

Randy Boissonnault planning a comeback in Edmonton-Centre, Erika Barootes launches Senate Nominee campaign

Randy Boissonnault announced plans to try to make a political comeback by seeking the federal Liberal Party nomination in Edmonton-Centre.

Boissonnault was elected as the Liberal MP for the district in 2015 and served Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues to the Prime Minister. He was defeated by Conservative James Cumming in the 2019 election.

Rumours continue to circulate in Ottawa about the federal Liberals desire to recruit Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to run as their candidate in Edmonton-Centre. Iveson told reporters yesterday that he has not made any decisions about his political future.

Cumming has been nominated as the Conservative candidate and former public school board trustee Heather Mackenzie is the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Centre.

Erika Barootes Senate Nominee Election Conservative
Erika Barootes

Meanwhile, lobbyist and former United Conservative Party president Erika Barootes has announced her plans to become a candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election, which is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the municipal elections in October.

Barootes is the Western Vice-President of Enterprise Canada and also serves as the President of the Conservative Party association in Edmonton-Centre and the Chief Financial Officer of the UCP association in Edmonton-Glenora.

A close-ally of Premier Jason Kenney, she is endorsed by a swath of Conservative partisan luminaries, including Rona Ambrose, Heather Forsyth, Laurie Hawn and Betty Unger.

Staff Barootes
Staff Barootes

She is the granddaughter of Staff Barootes, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1984 and served until 1993.

The elder Barootes was the chief fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan and, in 1984, he was one of the first three appointments made by Mulroney to the Senate.

The uniquely-Albertan election is being held to select a list of nominees to be appointed to the Senate of Canada when there are vacancies in Alberta’s delegation. Only Progressive Conservative and Conservative Prime Ministers have recognized the election and recommended the appointment of nominees chosen in Alberta’s Senate Nominee elections.

Barootes is the second candidate to announce plans to enter the Senate Nominee election after Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, announced in April 2021.

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Alberta Politics

All 33 Conservative MPs acclaimed in Alberta. Liberals have contested nomination in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan

All 33 incumbent Members of Parliament representing the Conservative Party from Alberta have been acclaimed as candidates to run in the next federal election.

The only exception to the wave of unchallenged nominations is in Edmonton Strathcona, where Tunde Obasan and Rick Peterson are seeking the Conservative nomination to challenge New Democratic Party MP Heather McPherson, who was also acclaimed, in the next federal election. This is the only district in Alberta not currently represented by a Conservative MP.

Meanwhile, there is a surprise east of Edmonton. Two candidates have announced their plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan district east of Edmonton. Tanya Reeb Holm and Ron Thiering are seeking the nomination at a meeting scheduled for June 22, 2021. Thiering was acclaimed as the party’s candidate in this riding in 2019 and finished in third place with 9.9 per cent in that year’s federal election.

Incumbent Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate.

John Kuhn has been nominated as the separatist Maverick Party candidate. Kuhn was elected as mayor of the southern Alberta town of Bassano in 2007 but resigned four months later.

Here are the other candidates updates:

Banff-Airdrie: MP Blake Richards has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Richards was first elected in 2008. Tariq Elnaga has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate. Elnaga is Vice President of the Cochrane Roping Club and the Chute Experience Director with the Airdrie Pro Rodeo.

Battle River-Crowfoot – Doug Karwandy has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary-Centre: Sabrina Grover is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in this central Calgary district. Grover is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Nutrition International and Principal of Provoke Public Relations. She was active in the Progressive Conservative Party in the mid-2010s. The district was represented by Liberal MP Kent Hehr from 2015 to 2019. Michael Pewtress is running as an Independent candidate in this district.

Calgary Forest Lawn: MP Jasraj Singh Hallan has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Hallan was first elected in 2019.

Calgary Heritage – MP Bob Benzen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Benzen was first elected in the 2017 by-election held to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Calgary Nose Hill: Jessica Dale-Walker is seeking the Liberal Party nomination.

Calgary Rocky Ridge: Dave Robinson has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Calgary Skyview: Harry Dhillon has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Calgary Signal Hill: Ajay Coop has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Edmonton Centre: MP James Cumming has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Cumming was first elected in 2019 when he defeated Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault.

Edmonton Griesbach: MP Kerry Diotte has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Diotte served one-term on city council before he was elected to the House of Commons in 2015.

Edmonton Riverbend: MP Matt Jeneroux has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Jeneroux was first elected as MP in 2015 and previously served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-South West from 2012 to 2015. Shawn Gray is seeking the NDP nomination, which is scheduled to take place on June 15.

Edmonton West: MP Kelly McCauley has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. McCauley was first elected in 2015.

Edmonton Wetaskiwin: Tyler Beauchamp has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate. Travis Calliou no longer running as a Veterans Coalition Party candidate. 

Foothills: MP John Barlow has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Barlow was first elected in 2015.

Grande Prairie-Mackenzie: Benita Pedersen has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Lakeland: MP Shannon Stubbs has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Stubbs was first elected in 2015 and has been rumoured to a potential candidate for the leadership of the United Conservative Party if Premier Jason Kenney does not survive his current leadership challenges.

Lethbridge: Kimberley Dawn Hovan has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner: Brodie Heidinger has been nominated as the People’s Party candidate.

Peace River-Westlock: MP Arnold Viersen has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Gail Ungstad has been nominated as the NDP candidate. Colin Krieger is the Maverick Party candidate.

Red Deer-Lacombe: MP Blaine Calkins has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Calkins was first elected in 2006.

Red Deer-Mountain View: Jared Pilon no longer running as Independent. He’s a Libertarian candidate. Mark Wilcox has been nominated as the Maverick Party candidate.

Sturgeon River-Parkland: Dane Lloyd has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. Lloyd was first elected in a 2017 by-election to replace former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Yellowhead: MP Gerald Soroka has been acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate. He was first elected in 2019.

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Daveberta Podcast

Episode 75: Amarjeet Sohi is running for Mayor of Edmonton

Amarjeet Sohi joins the Daveberta Podcast to talk about why he is running to become the next Mayor of Edmonton and discuss his experiences moving to Canada as a young man, being elected as a City Councillor, serving in Ottawa as a Member of Parliament and cabinet minister, and his love for Edmonton.

Sohi served on Edmonton City Council from 2007 until 2015, when he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods. While in Ottawa he served as Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of Natural Resources.

Amarjeet Sohi and Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast
Amarjeet Sohi and Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

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Alberta Politics

8 more Conservative MPs acclaimed, Blake Desjarlais seeking NDP nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach

The non-Conservative parties are slowly starting the process of nominating candidates in Alberta ahead of the next federal election.

Blake Desjarlais is seeking the New Democratic Party nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach. Desjarlais is the Director of Public Affairs & National Operations for the Métis Settlements General Council and was the co-chairperson of the Alberta government’s Indigenous Climate Leadership Summits in 2017 and 2018. The nomination meeting is scheduled for March 18.

David Gamble is seeking the Liberal Party nomination in Calgary-Confederation. Gamble was the provincial Liberal candidate in Calgary-Klein in the 2015 election and previously served as Executive Vice-President of the Alberta Liberal Party.  

Government audit manager Tunde Obasan is challenging former federal Conservative leadership candidate Rick Petersen for the Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona. Obsan was the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-South in the 2019 election where he was defeated by NDP MLA Thomas Dang.

The Conservatives are continuing to acclaim their incumbents in Alberta. As of today, I am not aware of any Conservative MPs in Alberta being challenged for their party nomination ahead of the next election.

Here is the list of the most recently acclaimed Conservatives in Alberta:

  • Calgary-Confederation – Len Webber has served as the Conservative MP for this district since 2015. He previously served as the Progressive Conservative and Independent MLA for Calgary-Foothills from 2004 to 2014.
  • Calgary-Skyview – Jag Sahota has served as the MP for this district since 2019. She was the PC candidate in Calgary-McCall in the 2015 provincial election.
  • Grande Prairie-Mackenzie – Chris Warkentin has served as an MP in northwest Alberta since 2006.
  • Fort McMurray-Cold Lake – David Yurdiga has served as an MP since 2014.
  • Edmonton-Mill Woods – Tim Uppal was first elected as MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods since 2019 and previously served as MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park from 2008 to 2015.
  • Edmonton-West – Kelly McCauley has served as MP for this district since 2015.
  • Edmonton-Wetaskiwin – Mike Lake has served as MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin from 2006 to 2015 and MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin since 2015.
  • Medicine Hat — Cardston — Warner – Glen Motz has served as MP for this district since 2016.

See a full list of candidates who have announced their plans to run for federal party nominations in Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Three more Conservative MPs nominated to run in next federal election

With it becoming increasingly likely that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could call a federal election in the next few months, the federal Conservative Party has been quietly nominating candidates in Alberta. The party holds all but one seat in Alberta and has nominated six of its incumbent Members of Parliament to seek re-election when the writs of election are drawn.

I have added the three most recent candidates to be nominated to the list of federal nomination candidates:

  • Earl Dreeshen in Red Deer-Mountain View. Dreeshen has represented Red Deer in the House of Commons since 2008 and is the father of Devin Dreeshen, the United Conservative Party MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
  • Michelle Rempel Garner in Calgary-Nose Hill. Rempel Garner has served as a Calgary MP since 2011.
  • Damien Kurek in Battle River-Crowfoot. Kurek was first elected in 2019, succeeding longtime area MP Kevin Sorensen.

I am told that the Liberal Party opened its candidate nomination process in early November 2020 but no candidates have been officially nominated in Alberta as of today.

Jaro Giesbrecht has announced his plans to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Banff-Aidrie. Giesbrecht briefly sought the Liberal nomination ahead of the 2019 federal election but withdrew from the contest. He was the Liberal Party candidate in Calgary-Peigan in the 2019 provincial election.


I was thrilled to join the West of Centre Podcast this week with host Kathleen Petty and fellow guests Jen Gerson and Ryan  Jespersen to discuss Alberta politics and the state of independent media in Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Fair Deal report a response to fringe separatist threat and distraction from UCP job cuts

The final report of the Fair Deal Panel was released yesterday. Here are my quick thoughts on the final report.

A reaction to a threat from the right: The appointment of the Fair Deal Panel was a direct response to a perceived threat to the United Conservative Party from the political right and fringe separatists following the re-election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government in October 2019.

The panel, which was announced by Premier Jason Kenney at the Manning Networking Conference in Red Deer, was a relief value to give frustrated Conservatives an opportunity to express their anger at the Liberals and a steering wheel to allow the Premier to control the political narrative around Alberta’s political relationship with Ottawa.

Kenney played a major role in the federal Conservative Party’s campaign against the Trudeau Liberals, with the premier even traveling to Ontario and Manitoba to campaign during the election, but despite all the bluster it appeared to have little impact on voters in those provinces on Election Day. The Conservatives did very well in Alberta, earning 69% of the vote, but saw their support decline in almost every riding Kenney campaigned in.

A federal Conservative landslide in Alberta is nothing new, it literally happens every four years. But the latest electoral division reflects an increasing feeling inside Alberta that the rest of Canada does not support the province’s energy industry and a growing feeling outside of Alberta that the province is a laggard on climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Alienation and anger at Ottawa is omnipresent in Alberta politics, but the separatist threat that spooked Kenney seven months ago has largely evaporated and the crash in the international price of oil and the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of the provinces being able to work with a federal government for financial relief.

Fair Deal Panel meant to distract from the UCPs job cuts agenda: Creating external enemies and manufacturing crises is something that Kenney excels at. The focus on the Fair Deal report and its recommendations are meant to distract Albertans from the UCP’s political agenda closer to home.

Despite claiming to be obsessed with creating jobs, Kenney’s government has done the opposite by cutting tens of thousands of jobs in Alberta’s public service, schools, colleges and universities. A high-profile dispute with Alberta’s doctors, which included an incident where Health Minister Tyler Shandro yelled at a physician at the driveway of his home, has mired the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UCP is also moving forward with plans to close and privatize Alberta’s provincial parks.

And it is expected that the Kenney government could soon introduce anti-union legislation and a $2/hour rollback of the $15/hour general minimum wage, directly targeting many of the low income service workers who have been praised as “heroes” during the pandemic.

Police and pension plans: There is little in the final report that the UCP government wasn’t already prepared to pursue or consider. Kenney has said that the government plans to implement or study 23 of the 25 recommendations in the panel’s final report.

Despite public opinion polls showing Albertans do not support replacing the Canada Pension Plan with an Alberta Pension Plan and replacing the RCMP with an Alberta police service, Kenney’s response to the panel report indicated the government was planning to study the two proposals. Both ideas are expensive and likely within provincial jurisdiction to implement, but the creation of an Alberta Pension Plan contradicts other proposals in the report meant to break down trade barriers and increase labour mobility with other provinces.

Equalization referendum: Kenney has spent much of the past year threatening to hold a referendum to remove the equalization article from the Constitution of Canada, so it was unsurprising to see the panel recommend it as well. The threat originated with frustration around delays with the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the federal government’s purchase of the pipeline did not convince Kenney to abandon the pledge.

In its report, the panel admits that a provincial referendum will not have the power to force the federal government or other provinces to reopen the Constitution or renegotiate the equalization formula.

There is probably no scenario where Alberta, a province that is wealthier than most other Canadian provinces even during an economic downtown, will receive funds from a national equalization program. But the unfairness of equalization is a talking point engrained in mainstream Alberta that is not based in fact and is not going away anytime soon.

The panel suggests holding a referendum on equalization would “morally obligate” the federal government and provinces to negotiate amendments to the Constitution. The same argument has worked unsuccessfully for thirty-years on the issue of Senate reform, which the panel report also recommends the province continue to pursue through provincial Senate Nominee elections.

Hijacking the 2021 Municipal Elections: As I first wrote more than a year ago, it is no coincidence that the proposed referendum and the rebooted Senate Nominee election will take place on the same day as the municipal elections across Alberta, October 18, 2021. The timing of these two votes will be used to increase turnout by conservative voters in the municipal and school board elections in an effort to boost support for candidates aligned with the UCP.

Although they dominate in federal and provincial elections, Conservatives have less success at the municipal level where candidates campaign as individuals and mayors offices, town councils and school boards have been more likely to be populated with Albertans more closely aligned with the NDP or Liberals.

Candidates in Alberta’s previous Senate Nominee elections ran under provincial party banners or as Independents. Changes introduced in the Senate Election Act in 2019 (which the report incorrectly refers to as the Senatorial Selection Act, which expired in 2016), will allow candidates to be marked on as a ballot as affiliated with federal political parties.

Injecting a federal party like the Conservative Party of Canada and its resources into a provincial vote being held during a municipal election will muddy the waters during the municipal election, forcing equalization and federal issues into local campaigns that usually focus on local issues. With the federals Liberals having abandoned their Senate caucus and the New Democratic Party continuing to call for Senate abolition, it is unlikely that the those parties will have any interest in participating in the Senate election, leaving the Conservatives to collect voter data and drive conservative voters to the polls.

Perhaps the best example of how the Fair Deal report is a partisan political document and not a serious effort in public engagement is this map found on page 52 of the report.

The map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.
The map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.

Framed as an East versus West political crisis over satisfaction with Canada, the map excludes British Columbia, where 60% of respondents to the Angus Reid Institute survey in January 2020 said they were satisfied with “the way things are going in Canada.”

The map also wedges Manitoba into the western bloc by listing that province’s dissatisfied number when the survey showed that 54% of Manitobans were satisfied.

So I fixed the map.

An edited version of the map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.
An edited version of the map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.

The only two provinces where a majority of survey respondents were unsatisfied are Alberta and Saskatchewan, which also happen to be the only two provinces where a majority of voters supported the Conservative Party of Canada…

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Alberta Politics

Remember “Albexit?” Economist and political pundit Jack Mintz to lead UCP economic advisory panel

With the international price of oil taking another nose-dive this week, Premier Jason Kenney announced at a press conference this afternoon that Jack Mintz, a fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and board member of Imperial Oil Limited and Morneau Shepell, will lead the latest in a series of expert panels appointed by the United Conservative Party government.

Mintz’s panel will be tasked with providing economic advice to the government in light of the recent drop in oil prices. Mintz tweeted the idea about 5 hours before Kenney announced it, leaving political observers to wonder which came first: the tweet or the appointment?

The challenges facing Alberta has been clear for a long time: the Alberta government is over-reliant on revenues from unreliable oil and gas royalties to fund the daily operations of government. This has been the case for decades, including all the previous times the international price of oil has collapsed, leaving the province in an economic crisis.

The need to find alternative revenue streams is something the UCP and previous governments have been unable to accept or accomplish.

Kenney has already said a provincial sales tax is off the table, so a major solution favoured by many economist is likely a non-starter.

Mintz’s views about government spending and economics are no secret in Alberta, nor are they to Conservative politicians and political leaders who he has lent his advice to in the past. While it might be unfair to prejudge Mintz’s yet-to-be-named panel, it would be a great surprise if a strong dose of austerity, privatization, or a version of Janice MacKinnon’s Report on steroids were not included in its advice.

As one of the province’s most prominent conservative economists his appointment to lead this panel is probably predictable, but it is his political views that make the choice more interesting.

For years, Mintz has moonlighted as a political pundit in the pages of the Postmedia-owned Financial Post, penning a regular opinion column that has included some fairly cringeworthy claims targeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s federal Liberal government, Alberta’s former New Democratic Party government and, more recently, providing fuel for supporters of Wexit and Alberta’s separation from Canada.

A column published in June 2015 aimed at the newly elected government of then-premier Rachel Notley claimed at “Alberta is not yet Greece, but it’s heading along that path,” in reference to the Greek economic crisis of the mid-2010s.

In “Alberta has better reasons to Albexit than Britain did for Brexit,” published in December 2018, claimed that “if Brexit happened, then Albexit is just as possible” and “[w]hatever negatives Alberta would face are easily swamped by the positives that would come with separation.”

And a recent column following Mintz’s participation at a right-wing political conference focused on Alberta separatism touted a “nuclear option” and ended with the claim that “…Albertans are looking for the shackles to be taken off.”

While the advice given by Mintz’s panel will certainly be of interest to many Albertans, how his own political views are reflected in the recommendations might be just as interesting, and concerning, to watch.

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Alberta Politics

Alberta’s “Fair Deal” Panel hosts first Separatist Open Mic Night in Edmonton

Dozens of speakers stepped up to to the mic to share their two-minutes worth of opinions at the first “Fair Deal” Panel town hall meeting in Edmonton last night. The event in the large meeting room at the St. Michael’s Heritage Hall was well-attended, but not overflowing with crowds of angry Albertans demanding separation from Canada.

The panel was appointed last month to decide whether Alberta is receiving a fair deal from Ottawa.

Fair Deal Panel Edmonton Alberta Politics 1
Fair Deal Panelists: Oryssia Lennie, Preston Manning, Stephen Lougheed, Jason Goodstriker, Donna Kennedy-Glans, Drew Barnes, Moin Yahya, Miranda Rosin, and Tany Yao.

The first speaker up to the mic told the panel that he was a separatist from Quebec when he moved to Alberta in the 1980s and feels Alberta is not getting a fair deal from Ottawa. The second speaker used his two-minutes at the mic to boisterously declare that Canada was broken and that his personal Christmas wish was for Premier Jason Kenney to hold a referendum on separation.

A few speakers criticized the government for stirring up separatist sentiment, expressed hope that Alberta could collaborate with other provinces, and said they wouldn’t trust the United Conservative Party government to manage a provincial pension plan (a statement which got some enthusiastic cheers from sections of the room). But many of the speakers tended to share separatist, or at least anti-federal Liberal sentiments, venting frustrations about federal environmental laws, delivering detailed plot summaries of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and offering their expertise on constitutional issues.

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips
Chris Chang-Yen Phillips

In what was probably the most thoughtful two-minutes of the evening, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, Edmonton’s former historian laureate and host of the Let’s Find Out Podcast, urged the panel to focus less on what we believe we are owed and more on taking care of each other.

Chang-Yen Phillips went on to explain that a fair deal in Confederation for him would be where every province does its part to lower carbon emissions, or transition away from fossil fuels. His comments might fall on deaf ears on the panel but it was a refreshing break from the separatist rhetoric that dominated the evening.

Who stood up at the mic was also telling. While not all of the speakers were white men who appeared to be older than 60 years old, it certainly skewed toward that demographic from my view in the room.

The panel was created following the Liberal Party‘s victory in the October 21, 2019 federal election, despite the Conservative Party earning 70 percent of the vote in Alberta, and was prescribed nine policy proposals that would ostensibly make Alberta more autonomous from the federal government in Ottawa. The proposals, ranging from creating a provincial police force to withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan to barring municipal governments from making agreements with the federal government, are inspired by the Firewall Manifesto penned by a group of conservative luminaries in 2001.

Separatist Open Mic Night Edmonton Alberta
The panel hears from a speaker at the town hall

Politically, the panel and its town hall meetings are both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent separatist sentiments while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep ahead of the crowd. Or at least that’s the plan.

The first town hall took place on the same day as the international credit rating agency Moody’s once again downgraded the provincial government’s credit rating.

During their time in opposition, the UCP was very eager to blame the credit downgrades on the New Democratic Party government’s “reckless” and “ideological” agenda, but it turns out that the credit rating downgrades have more to do with structural problems facing Alberta’s finances – like our unwavering over-dependence on oil and gas royalties to fund the day to day operations of the public service. That might have been a topic at a town hall interested in a fair deal for Albertans in Alberta, but this panel has a narrow political scope – and Kenney has Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is square in its sights.

There are plenty of articulate arguments to be made in favour and against pursuing the nine autonomy policies presented by the panel but they weren’t heard last night. The two-minute open mic format is a good way to let people vent and a poor way to collect meaningful information. If this is the format that is going to be used for the rest of the panel’s town hall meetings, it is difficult to believe they will gather much substantial feedback for their report to the government.


Independence Party of Alberta fires its President

Overshadowed by the media-darling Wexit group, the Independence Party of Alberta appears to be in a bit of internal turmoil.

The IPA, which recently changed its name from the Alberta Independence Party to the Independence Party of Alberta, released a statement on Nov. 1, 2019 announcing that interim president S. Todd Beasley had been removed from the position and his membership had been rescinded. The party then released another statement accusing Beasley and a group of former candidates of breaking internal party rules and being in possession of books of party membership forms.

Beasley is a controversial conservative activist who was believed to be the frontrunner for the UCP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat before he withdrew from the contest after making derogatory remarks about Muslims.

The Alberta Independence Party fielded 63 candidates in the April 2019 provincial election and earned a total of 0.71 per cent of the province-wide vote. Party leader Dave Bjorkman resigned shortly after the election and Wexit leader Peter Downing had announced plans to seek the leadership but his supporters appear to be continuing to collect signatures to form a separate Wexit Party.

Meanwhile, another group of separatists led by former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise, appears to be continuing its effort to collect signatures to register the Alberta Freedom Alliance as an official party in Alberta.

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Alberta Politics

Kenney’s Alberta Autonomy Panel given questions answered 15 years ago by Klein’s Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation Committee

Things are getting pretty weird in Alberta.

Deep cuts to the provincial budget are resulting in the cancellation of public services and job layoffs across the province, and the fallout from the federal election continues to dominate the political discussion. And crisis – organized crisis – reigns, as Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government dramatically shifts the political narrative on an almost daily basis.

Preston Manning
Preston Manning

But things got really weird last week when elected councillors of the County of Wheatland, a 8,700 person rural municipality east of Calgary, voted for a resolution calling for a possible Alberta independence vote. The councillor who introduced the motion is Jason Wilson, who according to his online biography also sits on the board of the local UCP association.

Yesterday, Kenney stood at the podium at the now one-day Manning Networking Conference in Red Deer to announce the creation of a “Fair Deal” panel that will look at ways to give the province more autonomy.

Kenney’s panel is both a continuation of his personal political campaign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who’s Liberal Party was re-elected with a large minority government, and a reaction to the frustration felt by many of the 70 per cent of Albertans who voted for Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party.

While some of the frustration felt by Albertans is legitimate, regional and partisan grievances are deeply intertwined in this province. With the UCP essentially operating as a provincial-wing of the federal Conservative Party, it is hard to believe that this panel would exist if Scheer had not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on October 21.

Panel members include former Reform Party leader Preston Manning (who has openly warned about separatism), former one-term Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans (who recently wrote a blog post asking if Trudeau has committed treason), current UCP MLAs Drew Barnes, Miranda Rosin, and Tany Yao, Fraser Institute senior fellow and University of Alberta academic Moin Yahya, Canada West Foundation board chair Oryssia Lennie, former Alberta Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Jason Goodstriker, and Peter Lougheed’s son Stephen Lougheed.

Donna Kennedy Glans MLA Calgary Varsity
Donna Kennedy-Glans

The panel will be given a $650,000 budget to hold seven town hall meetings to consult with Albertans on a prescribed series of issues that have been bees in Conservative partisans’ bonnets for decades, including:

  • withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta Pension Plan (something that was hinted last week and could have a big impact on the migration of interprovincial labour to Alberta),
  • replacing the Canada Revenue Agency by establishing a provincial revenue agency,
  • ending contracts with the RCMP and creating a provincial police force (the RCMP are currently investigating allegations of fraud in the UCP’s 2017 leadership contest),
  • opting out of federal programs like pharmacare,
  • forming an office of a Chief Firearms Officer (a Wildrose Party policy), and
  • creating an Alberta Constitution.

The panel’s mandate letter talks a lot about emulating Quebec, including implementing a rule that municipalities and school boards require the approval of the provincial government before they can enter into agreements with the federal government. This could be used by the Kenney government to cut off potential cooperation between municipalities and the federal government on projects like affordable housing, public infrastructure and climate change initiatives.

The panel and its town hall meetings are both a relief valve and a steering wheel meant to allow Albertans to vent their frustrations while allowing Kenney to attempt to keep ahead of the crowd. Or at least that’s probably the plan.

Premier Ralph Klein
Ralph Klein

Kenney frequently boasts about the size of his electoral mandate, so it is notable that none of the autonomy polices to be considered by the panel were included in the UCP’s incredibly thorough election platform just six months ago.

The panel’s mandate and the questions it is being tasked with asking are remarkably similar to the questions asked by the MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation created by premier Ralph Klein in November 2003.

Chaired by Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Ian McClelland (a former Reform Party Member of Parliament) and co-chaired by Red Deer-North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, members of the committee included Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao, Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk, Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths, Calgary-Currie MLA Jon Lord, Calgary-North Hill MLA Richard Magnus, St. Albert MLA Mary O’Neill, and Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk.

The MLA committee was created in the wake of the infamous 2001 Firewall Letter, signed by right-wing luminaries Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, Andy Crooks, Ken Boessenkool, and future prime minster Stephen Harper, and in response to small but loud fringe groups like the Alberta Independence Party and the Separation Party of Alberta.

And, like many of the initiatives started in the final few years of Klein’s tenure as premier, it was a meant to create a distraction from what had largely become a rudderless government. 

Ian McClelland

The mandate letter of the MLA committee was filled with much more flowery and hopeful language than the doom-and-gloom fear of separatism included in the mandate letter of Kenney’s panel. But the real mandate of the MLA committee was to travel the province to gauge support for the Firewall manifesto – a similar mandate of Kenney’s panel.

The MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta’s Role in Confederation held 12 public hearings between January and March 2004 and here is what they recommended:

Pension Plan: “The Committee believes that withdrawing from the CPP and creating a separate Alberta pension plan is not in the best interests of Albertans. That is not to say that the CPP should not be improved for Albertans and all Canadians. The Committee further recommends that Alberta develop and advocate further CPP reforms that will end the intergenerational inequity, and move the CPP to a fully-funded foundation.” (Page 19)

Tax Collection: “Collecting our own personal income taxes would be a costly venture. One analysis suggests that set-up costs would be $30-40 million and that annual administrative costs could be between $70 and $160 million (including the costs of an additional 1,000-2,000 full time positions that might be required). By comparison, the administrative fee paid by Alberta under the TCA is less than $5 million annually. The Committee is also concerned that individual Albertans and businesses in the province would incur higher out-of-pocket costs in complying with two separate tax systems. This consideration alone makes the idea impractical. The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta reach a new Tax Collection Agreement with the federal government that addresses Alberta’s concerns and provides increased tax policy flexibility.” (Page 21)

Mary Anne Jablonski

Police Force: The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta commission a detailed study of policing alternatives to the RCMP in advance of the 2007 cost review. This analysis should include a careful examination of costs, efficiencies, and levels of service. … The Committee further recommends that appropriate municipal stakeholders be consulted in the cost review negotiations in 2007, and that consideration be given to inclusion of such stakeholders on the Alberta negotiating team.” (Page 25)

Senate: “The Committee recommends that the Government of Alberta, through the Council of the Federation, encourage the Premiers to consider a process that would see the Prime Minister fill Senate vacancies from lists of provincial nominees. In Alberta’s case, the list should be generated by a Senatorial election.” (Page 29)

Intergovernmental Relations: “The Committee further recommends that the Government of Alberta re-establish an office in Ottawa. Close proximity to, and face-to-face contact with, federal decision-makers would improve relations between our governments and would help ensure Alberta interests are accurately and efficiently conveyed and addressed.” (Page 58)

Our Future:The Committee also recommends that the Government of Alberta work towards fixing the underlying structural problems of our Canadian institutions that feed the flames of western alienation. The Committee further recommends that the Government of Alberta establish a fund for use in pursuing those legal challenges deemed to be necessary and desirable for safeguarding Alberta’s Constitutional jurisdiction.” (Page 59)

The MLA committee and its final report rejected the Firewall manifesto and was quickly forgotten after Paul Martin’s Liberals lost their majority in June 2004 and Klein’s PCs had their knuckles rapped in November 2004. But unlike Klein’s committee, which resulted in some fairly moderate and milquetoast recommendations, many of the panel members appointed by Kenney yesterday and the political environment they exist in are much more ideologically driven and politically divided.

This weird ride doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon. There’s more crisis ahead.


Alberta to reopen office in Ottawa, again

In his speech to the Manning Centre, Kenney announced that the Alberta government will open offices in Ottawa, Quebec, and British Columbia. It is unusual and unclear why the Alberta government would need offices in other provincial capitals or in Ottawa, where Albertans just elected 34 Members of Parliament to represent their interests. But an office in the federal capital is not unprecedented.

The Alberta government opened an office in Ottawa in 1939. The Ottawa office was closed in 1996 and its last executive director, Gordon Olsen (brother of War Room CEO Tom Olsen), relocated to Calgary. A government review conducted in 2000 concluded that technology allows people to research information just as easily without a full-time office in Ottawa.

In 2004, Klein publicly mused about opening an Alberta government-funded office in Ottawa for the province’s elected Senate nominees, but the unpopular idea died quickly.

Premier Alison Redford reopened the office in 2013 and Calgary energy lawyer Alan Ross was hired as Alberta’s representative. Premier Jim Prentice closed the office again in 2015.

(Photo source: Facebook)